The effect is that Internet companies and the media have a symbiotic relationship: Social networking sites leverage the news to grow their advertising and users, while the media uses social sites to boost their own page views and ad dollars. Yahoo might become an exception now, as it decides whether to focus more on exclusive or on distributed content.
People have talked about "the death of newspapers" for years, and sites like Twitter and Google News have played their role, though the sites point out that they drive traffic to the original news sources, including papers' online editions. For many, Twitter is already the go-to source for information during national events and emergencies, not to mention shows like "Dancing With the Stars."
Twitter wants more of that kind of user engagement. It recently rolled out a targeted notifications feature for emergency alerts and crises, and it now hosts an experiment account called "Event Parrot" for delivering breaking news via direct message.
A recent Pew survey indicated that about half of both Facebook and Twitter users in the U.S. get some of their news on those sites.
The latest moves reveal a new level of ambition to deliver the news, and if they provide the right mix of content, the sites eventually could succeed in becoming places where people get most of their news.
"If Facebook can surface enough content, with enough variety, they might convince me I can get everything from them," said Gilbert of the Medill School of Journalism.
Facebook's interest in news could be related to the fact that people are starting to show signs of fatigue with its platform, said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. Giving its users more news, assuming it's news they want to see, might be one way to wake them up.
Social media companies are also giving new thought to where people are reading the news. Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are a popular place for that now. Facebook, in its announcement on Monday, said it was paying more attention to the number of clicks for articles on mobile.
The growth of news on social networks may be accelerating trends that are already underway. The days of opening a daily newspaper or clicking through a single news website such as CNN.com are on the wane, with search engines and news aggregation sites allowing people to dip in and out of multiple sites, some they are familiar with and others they are not.